Tell us a little bit about your career background and how you got to your present role:
I graduated with a degree in pharmacy in 1991 and registered as a pharmacist in 1992. During this year, I developed a passion for how community and hospital could work better together as patients move between home and hospital. This was a major influence on my career.
At that stage, there were very few funds around for that type of research so, despite securing a prestigious grant, I had to work part time, which was the making of my PhD and me as a professional. During my PhD, I worked in community, hospital and academia, securing a larger grant along the way, which meant I could take on students myself. All great experiences.
Following a decade of more formal joint appointments between NHS and academia, I developed both a passion for professional development and advancement, as well as a wealth of experience and expertise. The best thing is to see how much confidence grows when people are supported to develop new skills, refresh knowledge, and feel part of something worthwhile, while demonstrating benefits.
My current role is the Director of Professional Development and Support at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) for GB, which does all of the above, but on a GB scale. I direct a large team focused on supporting, developing and advancing pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists whatever field of the profession they work in and at whatever stage. All for the benefit of patients, their carers and the public, from research to science, clinical to management. This also means I personally need to continually develop, advance and strive to be the best I can be if I am to be a role model for my team and the profession we serve.
Along the way, I have had some amazing opportunities to travel the globe, be exposed to different health and education systems all with the same aim: to benefit patients. I have met some fantastic colleagues and made some firm lifelong friends.
What a privilege!
Catherine wears the Camelot dress in winter white tweed
What is one of the greatest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
When I look back and consider the various steps in my career, its interesting to see a similar theme emerging during the past two decades.
From trying to secure funding for my PhD in 1993, to securing buy in for the launch of the first profession-wide recognition scheme in pharmacy last year (2013), I seem to have been lucky enough to be at the forefront of many exciting initiatives. Despite being challenging in so many ways, these provide such promising opportunities that you simply can’t give up. Launching the RPS Faculty last year is definitely my biggest achievement to date.
The underlying theme is being passionate about making change that others may not see the reason for at the time. The key is to gather evidence, create a case and develop a set of negotiation and influencing skills that help provide a compelling vision. Oh yes, and deliver the results!
Do you have a mentor or role model that you talk to about your career? If so, what is some key advice have they given you?
I think mentorship is the bedrock of personal and professional development. We are currently building a huge supportive network across the entire profession, from day 1 as a pharmacist and all the way through your career. For me, having a network of formal and informal mentors has been key. Different colleagues, peers, or friends provide different perspectives, away from line management, which can be truthful, challenging and supportive.
Key advice has been to take time to understand the perspective of the person you are communicating with, which has been essential all the way through my career (including learning from mistakes).
Taking the words from the Fold website: gravitas, communication and appearance. It is also important to channel your own personality – it provides an authenticity and credibility nobody can deny.
Catherine wears the Camelot dress in winter white tweed
What is a typical day like for you?
Typical is difficult to describe as I travel a lot and have weeks that may involve several meetings around the country.
However, typically I have a full diary (often with very few breaks, which is a challenge) with a variety of external and team meetings, which means I need to be highly prepared and fully briefed. Also ready for the ever present tricky staff issue when you manage a big team.
I do try to leave at a reasonable time but this can be difficult. However, it is really important for my partner and I to spend some time at home, catching up on the day, eating supper together and having a glass of wine to unwind. Oh yes, and try to build in some exercise too – which I’m trying hard to incorporate in my routine. We live near Alexandra Palace so we have lots of green space on our doorstep to go running (or jogging in my case!).
How do you maintain a good work/life balance?
The moment you acknowledge that this balance is very hard, it helps.
This is wider than work and deadlines: it is about balancing family commitments, seeing friends and managing the household. This has really changed over the years – from needing to be fully in control of it all, which can lead to its own stress, to finding a level I am comfortable with. A lot of the balance is unattainable if you seek perfection in everything. So, doing your best to keep in touch with friends and family, keeping on top of immediate deadlines and in touch with future plans is a good way for me to balance it all.
Acknowledging “bad weeks” when you have to put in extra hours and focus on work is a good way NOT to let it become normal. The balance is in doing your best to switch off: however that works for you as an individual.
Do you need to dress in a particular way for work?
As a Director in a professional body, I have to dress in a professional and smart way. There’s no specific expectation but suits and smart dresses are staples. It’s important that I portray a professional image but I also like to wear stylish clothes with a fashionable edge when possible. This is where The Fold has been an inspiration. Both the cut and look of the clothes are beautiful, allowing you to dress in a smart way that is feminine and stylish and add some individual touches as well.
What are your ultimate workwear wardrobe staples?
The Le Marais collection is fabulous.
This is what drew me into The Fold a few months ago. It’s a real “must have” set of mix and match items that provide a smart suiting but also some elegant and stylish mix and match options. They are fantastic for travelling and they are perfect for the last minute invitation when you’re away. I love them.
Then, of course, I found the dresses and now I am addicted.
You have a very busy schedule, how do you like to unwind after a long day at work?
I love to get home from work, head out for a quick run, spend the evening chatting the day through with my partner (who is the chef in our house), with a glass of wine. That’s my very favourite way to unwind.
We love cooking, entertaining and eating out so, second best way to unwind is to head to a great bar or restaurant where we can catch up with good friends. If it is somewhere new (we are constantly on the look out), we love to add it to our list of best eateries.
And finally, what is your favourite dress from The Fold?
I can’t choose one!
I love two dresses in the collection: the Camelot (which I have in midnight blue and white tweed) and the Cavendish dress (which I have in lipstick and silver grey). They are both different in style but equally gorgeous. Your best “go to” dresses. I’m hooked!
Photos from Amelia Allen Photography.